AFL Round 16 – Gold Coast v Collingwood: Persistently Profligate Pies Eclipsed by Suns

written by Steve Fahey for the Floreat Pica Society (note -separate report written for the Almanac, see it elsewhere on the site)

opportunity  n a time or set of circumstances that makes it possible to do something

Ouch, this loss really stung.  We dominated the first half (inside 50s 29-16 at half-time), the opposition had four players off injured for the last quarter, including their champion bald bloke, we had the rub of the green with the umpiring and we still came up on the wrong side of the ledger.

As I drove to the game from the Sunshine Coast with Holly, the question I pondered was “Who would kick the goals if not Travis?” Elliott out injured and the second tall forward being a resting ruckman in place of the deposed White meant that we looked like we could be a bit one-dimensional, while the opposition boasted their three young talls in perfect conditions.

The atmosphere was very much that of a big match in front of a record Carrara crowd.  It is a ripper venue to watch footy.  We controlled the game for much of the first half after a shaky first few minutes.  Witts was excellent in the ruck and we dominated the hit-outs in a most un-Collingwood like fashion, and managed to force the ball forward often enough to give Cloke ample opportunities.  Travis was in red-hot form on a good opponent in Thompson, having 9 possessions and four score involvements in the first quarter.  He teamed with Young for a monster goal, Young’s second which gave us a handy early lead.  We looked strong in the midfield and going forward, but looked shaky in defence, with Harry surprisingly starting in the third tall role, and Keeffe and to a lesser extent Frost looking vulnerable when the ball came in quickly.

A couple of early goals at the start of the second, and one conceded through a combination of a sloppy Marley handball and a Dwyer fumble extended the lead to three goals. There was a long period of tug of war in the middle of the quarter in which we tended to overuse the ball, which was surprising given how well we had scored when we got it in quickly. We scored a string of points, including a disgraceful miss by Young after he received an incorrect 50 metre penalty.

critical moment number one

I reckon that there were three big moments in this game.  The first came late in the second quarter when Swanny was courageous enough to give it off by hand in defence into the corridor to Seedsman, who dashed through the centre and hit Travis lace out 15 metres from goal on a slight angle.  A goal would have given us a four goal lead and Travis three for the half, as well as huge psychological momentum from breaking the impasse and producing the best passage of play of the match.  Travis missed, the Suns scored at the other end and at half-time we had only an 11 point lead to show for our dominance. The much-vaunted match-up of Caff on Ablett was probably marginally in the Great Man’s favour, although he had been good rather than dominant, with 15 possessions.

Our third quarter was pathetic.  Beams and Marley made terrible errors early and we quickly conceded the lead.  The rest of the quarter was an arm-wrestle.  The Suns had more run and we were just hanging in there, butchering shot after shot when we did go forward, to record ten behinds in succession starting from early in the second quarter.

critical moment number two

When Ablett stayed down after an innocuous tangle with Caff and emerged with a game-ending shoulder injury, the odds swung heavily in our favour, especially as they had already made a sub at half time for the injured Dixon.  Who knows what psychological impact it had on both teams, but the odds swung further in our favour when McKenzie also limped off.  Although we trailed by a goal at the last break I was confident that we could get over the top of them, especially as players from both teams looked absolutely shot in the dying minutes of the quarter?

My confidence remained despite the Suns having the best of the early part of the quarter, settling after an early goal to Thomas broke our run of inaccuracy.  The Suns seemed to have more run and conviction and certainly had more forward targets, with Lynch and particularly Day looking like they would mark it every time it went in, Day repeatedly out-positioning Keefe.  When the Suns took their lead to 14 points we were on the edge, but I still knew that we were only a goal away from having them under pressure.

It was a pulsating finish, with both sides making critical errors and the ball slingshotting from one end of the ground to the other.  The Suns missed a few shots which might have ended the contest.  Kennedy kicked two good goals and Seedsman kicked a beauty, again bolting through the corridor and taking a couple of bounces before finishing truly.

critical moment number three

What can you say? Two minutes to go, Clinton Young twenty metres from goal, unattended, drops a soda which could have given us the lead and completely changed the psychology of the game. I don’t know if he has stopped having nightmares about falling over in his defensive goal square for the Hawks in the 2012 GF, but at least he has now has another track on the tape.  Arguably the biggest blunder by a Pie since Phil Manassa’s errant handball in the goal square in the drawn 1977 GF.

In my eyes the game was gone from there.  We lacked composure in the last couple of minutes, bombing from defence when plenty of time remained for one scoring attempt, which is all that was needed.  Hats off to the Suns, they are a decent team who deserved their win, which was a phenomenal effort against the odds.  An epic victory to them and a bitter loss for us.


Attack – Their three tall forwards kicked eight goals and looked dangerous while our one forward kicked two.  Travis was magnificent in the first half but didn’t maximise his dominance and couldn’t do it all by himself and faded.  We simply didn’t have another target, with Swanny spending a lot of time forward and being OK on occasion but not hitting the scoreboard and Grundy looking like a ruckman rather than a forward.  We won’t win a lot of games with that structure when Travis doesn’t get a bag and Pendles, Beams and Swanny don’t kick any goals.  Hopefully White can find some form, but Reid (if he can ever get fit, suffered a corkie in the twos today) or Karnezis has to come in.  Alternatively we take some short-term pain and keep playing Witts and Grundy and hope that they can become pinch-hitting forwards.   We play a lot of defensive forwards – usually two of Blair, The Sack and Ball.  This has worked OK, but these blokes also need to hit the scoreboard otherwise we are too predictable and easy to defend against.

Disposal -I don’t know whether we have retained our 18th ranking for disposal efficiency that we held earlier in the season but it appears likely.  Too many blokes that can’t kick, especially in the back half, and too many less than a metre handballs that put the recipient under pressure.  Adams continues to be a particular concern with his foot skills or lack thereof.  As for our goalkicking, this has been going on for 5 or 6 years now, I don’t know what the answer is.

Defence – It’s no surprise that young key defenders fluctuate in form and I don’t think it’s coincidence that Keefe and Frost have struggled more regularly since Maxwell has been missing.  Toovey is also really struggling since his return, and his disposal has been abysmal.    We need to get more run out of Marley.  And our kick-ins remain highly problematic.

Mids – Have been pretty good for most of the season with Pendles, Beamer, Sidey and Caff having good seasons, but beaten this night by a hungrier unit with cleaner hands. The back-ups in Adams and Thomas have been very disappointing. I reckon we need to give Broomhead another opportunity and give him some time in the midfield.

Energy –  Two weeks in a row we have dominated in the first half and fallen away in the second half.  We look like a team hanging out for the next break, which again is probably a reflection of our inexperience.

Class/flair – We lack it, we are very blue-collar with a couple of exceptions.  Too often we are looking to give it off to Pendles no matter how much pressure he is under – we need more blokes to take the responsibility of using the ball well.  Also, too much of the line-breaking running is left to Young and Seedsman.  We need more run from Marley and H and continued run from Tommy Langdon, who was quiet in his return.

Coaching – two weeks in a row we have controlled the first half, or at least most of it, only for the game to be played on the opposition’s terms in the second half, notably our backs getting sucked up the ground and being scored against on the fast break.  I don’t know how much of this relates to fatigue, but it was the achilles heel of Bucks’ coaching in 2012-13 and something we had managed a lot better until recent weeks, since the Bulldogs game, which I am sure opponents have picked apart on video.

Positives – Kennedy showed some polish in the last quarter.  He started well and faded out for the middle quarters.  I know that he has played midfield in the twos but we need a crumbing forward who can kick a goal, and he might be the closest thing we have (and there is Kyle Martin of course, who could be promoted to the senior list given Hudson’s long-term injury, but Martin dropped out of the twos today with an injury).  Witts has had two good weeks in the ruck since Bucks confronted him and was very impressive in the first half. Seedsman is a game-breaker who is getting better each week.  He just needs to learn to do it more often and consolidate the basics.

Peripheral – Freeman straining his other hamstring is remarkable, with neither of our top two draft picks playing at any level in the season proper.

We have now won one of our last four and four of our last eight.  I reckon we need three more wins to make the eight, possibly four.  A win against the Dons would keep the wolves in the press away from the door in the interim before a much-needed break.  I am still optimistic re the coming years.

Votes for the Michael Horsburgh Medal.  This was a very hard game in which to award votes.  I would have liked to give 6 blokes one vote, but there is a format, so

3 Sidey

2 Pendles

1 Witts

The Sam Iles Medal goes to Sidey

Floreat Pica

Steve Fahey


  1. You are certainly a glutton for punishment Steve. I share the same habit of picking the Eagles players, game plan and structure apart – particularly after losses. Somehow it gives an illusion of control that helps distract from the pain.
    Regards, PB.

  2. Steve Fahey says

    Agreed Peter, it is incredible how much energy we invest in something over which we have zero control or influence (with the possible exception of being part of “the nineteenth man”” as the Channel 7 commentators have taken to calling the Adelaide Oval crowds)

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